Tove Lo goes electronic on cohesive second record Lady Wood
2014 was a big year for Tove Lo. The Swedish pop star came seemingly out of nowhere when her single ‘Habits (Stay High)’ blew up world wide. Her debut album Queen of the Clouds was released in the same year, but ever since Tove Lo has never been really out of side. She recorded songs for the soundtrack of The Hunger Games and the Divergent series and collaborated with Adam Lambert, Coldplay, Flume, Nick Jonas and Years & Years. in August she dropped the first, effortlessly cool single ‘Cool Girl‘ taken from her sophomore record Lady Wood. She went with a more electronic sound, something she keeps up for the whole record.
On first listen, the tracks on Lady Wood might not stand out so much, because the album is incredibly cohesive without starting to feel too samey. The tracks are all produced in a similar soundscape and therefore the album, which is divided in two parts, ‘Fairy Dust’ and ‘Fire Fades’, is best consumed as a whole to start off with. With every listen the tracks start unfolding themselves and you come to realize that Tove Lo managed to write another album full of infectious pop hooks. They might be a little less obvious and in your face than on Queen of the Clouds, but they are just as undeniable when given some time.
The album opens with a beautiful intro that perfectly flows into Wiz Khalifa collaboration ‘Influence’, which was released as a promo single. The track perfectly captures the sonical spirit of the record with house inspired beats and poppy melodies. Just like on ‘Cool Girl’, Tove makes her vocals sound effortlessly cool without trying too hard. On the next promo single ‘True Disaster’ she goes full on synth pop which reminds slightly of the sound of fellow Swede pop princess Robyn. Title track ‘Lady Wood’ (pardon the pun) is built around an instrumental hook, but it is the soaring middle eight in which she mentions the ear catching title that makes the track.
Producers The Struts deliver more than solid work on the tracks of Lady Wood, but their product reaches its full potential on ‘Imaginary Friend’, on which New Zealand producer and composer Joel Little (long time Lorde collaborator) helps out. The build up is stunning and the instrumental post chorus with echoing distorted vocals is on trend, but never feels redundant. This is how you take an already impressive pop composition to the next level with the right kind of soundscape. They manage to do the same for ‘Vibes’ which on paper sounds quite surprising with acoustic guitar and an electronic post chorus drop, but it works exceptionally well.
As a songwriter Tove Lo has never been the subtle kind, judging by her literal descriptions of her post break up behaviour in ‘Habits’ and this is evident on most of Lady Wood‘s tracks too. Sometimes this honesty works perfectly (for example on the dramatic, but still feisty album closer ‘WTF Love Is’) but she sometimes misses the mark with clunky wordings, like on ‘Flashes’ a track that therefore never reaches its full potential.
Tove Lo shows progression with a more electronic sound on her sophomore album, which fits her like a glove. The whole record sounds like a unity, without repeating itself. Tove Lo is more than a one day fly and I am excited to see what the coming years will have in store for her.
Must listen: Influence, Imaginary Friend, WTF Love Is, True Disaster, Lady Wood
Update: Tove Lo released an explicit shortfilm Fairy Dust, that goes with the first part of the album.